There is a saying credited to Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai (30 BCE to 90 CE), that goes like this, “If you have a sapling in your hand, and someone should say to you that the Messiah has come, stay and complete the planting, and then go to greet the Messiah.” Those words ring true 2,000 years later. In this time of pandemic, when we are overwhelmed with reality, and perhaps more overwhelmed by 24-hr news feeds, we “hear” things that can scare the daylights out of us. It can feel to those of us familiar with the “Left Behind” series of books, that the end of the world is indeed upon us.
Rabbi Zakkai’s advice to such news is to stay at what we have started, go about our business, attend to the things that are ours to do, to complete what we have begun.
None of us can know that, this isn’t the first time that calamity has fallen upon us, or the first time that the church and Christians have faced dire circumstances. Martin Luther wrote a letter titled, “Should a Christian Flee the Plague?” from Wittenberg in 1527 as the bubonic plague was decimating that city. Many Christians in the year 999 CE were sure that the Lord would return when 1,000 CE rolled around. We saw the same sort of hysteria in 1999. Jesus’ words to such rumors was “Only the Father knows.”
There is something healing, life-giving, in doing the work set before us each day. It takes us away from the 24-hr news cycle, gives us a sense of self-efficacy, reminds us that we have power to act in positive ways, and forces us to focus on, to think about something other than what is out of our control.
So, I am planting a vegetable garden, busying myself with preparing the soil, putting vegetable seeds in pots in a sunny window, and just for the beauty of it have planted flowers and bulbs. Next on my list are trees for the yard. It might not sound like spiritual work, but it is, after all, the first thing that God did after creation. God planted a garden.
What is it that you are planting, if not in a garden, then in other ways? Planting seeds of learning and wisdom in your children? Growing a deep place of refuge in your inner self? Spreading root of connections with your neighbors and family in virtual ways? Sharing some of your abundance with those in need?
Rooted and growing together in Christ,